Thugs working for Mexican drug cartels kidnapped the 12-year-old daughter of a ranch foreman in New Mexico, holding the girl for ransom until her family and neighbors came up with $80,000 for her release. They didn’t dare call law enforcement for help because of very real fears their calls would be monitored by the kidnappers using sophisticated communications relay stations erected on U.S. public lands.
That was one of the most shocking stories four congressmen heard last week while visiting hot spots along the New Mexico, Arizona and Texas border, where specific American law enforcement officers are being targeted for assassination and high levels of violence, vandalism and threats against Americans are increasingly common. One rancher showed the lawmakers a photo she had taken on her property of a camo-clad drug runner brandishing an AK-47.
“The town hall meeting we held with ranchers in New Mexico was very lively,” Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., told The Examiner. “The drug smugglers use scanners, cell phones, GPS systems and other equipment that is better than anything Border Patrol or the local deputy sheriffs have. We could actually see them watching our Border Patrol agents from points on high ground” in Mexico.
There were 900 attacks on Border Patrol agents last year, Royce said, and 91 assaults on Customs Agents in the Tucson sector alone. Narco traffickers have become so bold that they shot up a U.S. Customs station in the process of intercepting a big cocaine shipment.
Royce noted that a retired Mexican general who had been recruited to be the police chief in a border town was assassinated within a month. “This is an emergency situation. We need to take decisive action. The Mexican government is losing control, and is unable to keep the narco insurgents at bay.”
To that end, the California Republican plans to introduce legislation to finish the 700-mile border fence – including double fencing in key areas – which is part of the House Republicans’ “Pledge to America.”
“Where the fence has been deployed, it’s been enormously successful. Before the fence was built outside San Diego, drug cartels controlled the area. The fence was 95 percent effective against people smuggling weapons, and crime dropped 50 percent in both Tijuana and San Diego,” Royce said.
The legislation would also give the Border Patrol operational control of the southern border, which it does not have now.
“My bill will prohibit the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture from interfering with Border Patrol activities on federal lands,” Royce told us. “It will also allow state and local law enforcement to enforce all U.S. immigration laws, and require the Department of Homeland Security to review all visa applications at high-risk locations.”
Driving down roads on federal lands 40 miles from the Arizona border, Royce and his House colleagues saw several Bureau of Land Management signs reading: “Danger: Public Warning, Travel Not Recommended, Active Drug & Human Smuggling Area, Armed Criminals and Vehicles Traveling at High Rates of Speed.”
The area isn’t even safe for Border Patrol agents. Brian Terry was shot and killed Dec. 15 on a Forest Service road in Peck Canyon, near Nogales, Arizona – known by locals as “Smugglers Paradise.” Six suspects are being held on felony immigration charges in that case.
Royce, sponsor of the 2006 “Secure the Fence Act,” added that neither the Bush administration nor the Obama administration is committed to completing the border fence. “We passed the bill just before the election and President Bush had to sign it. We had the authorization and the appropriations. We thought the job was done. But you also have to have the political will.”
And elected officials who don’t stick their heads in the sand hoping the drug cartels will just go away.